From test-performance scores to student financial data to statewide longitudinal data systems, there has been a dramatic increase in the collection of students' sensitive information over the last decade. Both the U.S. Congress and the presidential administrations have touted the amassing of student data as beneficial and necessary to a successful education system. However, the increase in the collection of student data has led to a marked decrease in student data protection. Changes to student privacy regulations and government programs such as the Education Data Initiative underscore the need for meaningful oversight for the protection of student data.The authors provide an excellent accounting of how student data is being released to various government agencies and private corporations/researchers. This dissemination of student data erodes students' privacy rights. They offer this conclusion:
In February 2012, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed suit against the Education Department regarding the changes to the federal student privacy regulations under FERPA. At EPIC, we believe the agency exceeded its authority when it revised the federal privacy law to make student data more available. And we disagree with the agency's decision to loosen the key definitions that help safeguard student records. Our case, EPIC v. Department of Education, is pending in federal district court in Washington, D.C.
When FERPA was enacted almost forty years ago, Congress made it clear that students' personal information should not be made widely available. Congress was particularly concerned that if student records fell into the hands of private parties, these records could hurt students later in life when, for example, students were seeking jobs. Although the pressures have increased over the years to access student data, Congress and the Education Department should work to strengthen student privacy rights and provide oversight on student data disclosure.
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